"Yo! It’s sundown in like 10 seconds!” my brother Jeffrey shouted into a crowd of young people.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one! Yea!” We all screamed for joy. Then it started: the barrage of questions.
“Mom, can you take me to my basketball game?” Jeffery asked. “’Cause I’m already kind of late.”
“Oh, and Mom, can I take the car to meet up with my friends?” I had to throw my question into the mix.
“Dad, can my girlfriend come over?” my brother James inquired.
“Hold up! Wait just a minute,” Mom said just loud enough for all six of her energetic, excited children to hear. “The sun just set, and the Sabbath only technically ended about a minute ago. Why are you all in such a rush to get the Sabbath over with?”
That simple question Mom asked years ago hit me like a bag of bricks, and it still plagues me. I recently asked myself, Why was I so excited to see the end of the Sabbath? For welcoming the Sabbath for me, for all the family, in fact, used to be a deeply satisfying experience. As I lay on my bed, I began to think and remember. My long-term memory is vivid, and it seemed as if I stood in my yellow childhood home, seeing the hustle and bustle of my large family.
I could hear the sounds of the stove, Charity the cat’s meow, my mom’s laughter in the herb garden, and my father’s eclectic playlist of music wafting through the vents. Interrupting my reminiscing, my sister’s voice seemed to yell from the bright-yellow-and-green kitchen. “It’s time to eat!"
The house rumbled with activity at those words. Everyone erupted from their personal activities and crowded into the same tiny, middle bathroom. I had to be patient, because already a long line had formed in front of me, consisting of my sweaty brother who had just won another game of basketball against our tall, super-skinny neighbor; my sister who’d been playing with the cat and was now covered in cat hair; my two brothers who had been running through our woods and had fingernails full of dirt and stank to high heaven. Dad also sauntered in, telling us to quit playing with the soap.
Since I was last in line, I wiped the countertop with a towel, clicked off the light, and headed into the kitchen. The aroma of chili beans and the sight of my frazzled family sitting at the table all awaiting my arrival so the feast could begin made me smile. I sat at my usual place, at the very right of the bench nearest to Dad.
As I sat down I heard the flick of the match against the box and the slight hiss of the flame. The scent of the candle and the sound of silence fell over the whole table. My Mom’s beautiful alto voice started the chorus of the song we all knew by heart: “Welcome, welcome, ever welcome, blessed Sabbath day.” Dad’s bass echoed hers, and we all joined in singing the beautiful chorus. Then I sang a song I had written to the tune of “Happy Birthday.” “Happy celebration to Jesus, happy celebration to Jesus, happy celebration to Jesus, happy celebration to Jesus!” Fancy, huh?
After a slight pause, everyone around the table burst to life.
“Jazzmin, can you serve the beans?”
“Jonathan, pass the salsa, onions, and olives, please.”
“James! Don’t take that many olives!”
I remembered the chaotic commotion that was my family. I recalled the great debates and deep conversations we’d had on Friday nights around that table. We talked about final events, our days, school, people; we even debated facts about the Bible. We laughed, told jokes, and sometimes cried. Then we’d all get up and wash dishes, argue about whose turn it was, and sweep the floor.
After all the cleaning was done, we’d meet in the living room for worship. I’d sit at the brown, slightly off-key piano, crack open the hymnal, and find “Marching to Zion.” We all began to lift our voices in song. When we got to the second verse, Mom would scuff in with her big, annoying slippers. She’d smell of lotion and look super-comfy in her pink-and-white-striped robe. She’d take her seat next to Dad, he’d throw his arm around her, and we’d begin to sing the third verse: “The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets.”
After that song, I gave up the coveted piano bench and let my brother play his favorite song: “Worthy, Worthy Is the Lamb.” When the music drifted to an end, my sister offered a prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to dwell with us and give us understanding. We all repeated the fourth commandment and acted out the motions I’d come up with to remember the words: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work. . . . Wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:8-11, KJV).
Then Dad’s soothing voice began reading the Bible or a devotional book. I sat by the tall glass doors facing the couch so I could look at my family. My siblings and I threw weird faces at each other, trying not to laugh. I wondered whether my brother Jonathan would ask a question, because he always did; and, as I predicted, his hand oftenshot up.
I smiled at his line of continual questioning. Jonathan could be a persistent young man.
As worship came to an end we had to sing one more song, Mom’s all-time favorite, “Now the Day Is Over”: “Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh, shadows of the evening steal across the sky.”
When the last note of the very last verse ended, my father’s voice filled the room asking God for forgiveness and for protection over us as we sleep, and thanking Him for giving us the Sabbath so we could come apart and worship Him.
I felt at peace. A wave of safety, security, and happiness washed over me.
That’s what Sabbath was all about, about taking time out to spend with my Creator, the one who designed my unique personality; the one who never let me go hungry; the one who always helps me fall asleep; the one who wakes me up every morning. This Person created not just me but the entire universe: the planets, oxygen, elephants, ants, cheetahs, flowers, stars, everything.
God wants to meet with me. All He wants is 24 hours of my precious time to cast my cares upon Him. That’s what Sabbath is all about.
Jazzmin Joy Pride is a senior elementary education major at Oakwood University in Huntsville Alabama. She loves to create with her hands, camp out in nature, and experiment with vegan cuisine.